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Overview

Health informatics, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, is the interdisciplinary study of the design, development, adoption, and application of IT-based innovations in healthcare services delivery, management, and planning. Health informatics technology includes the electronics and information technology used during the course of patient care, a practice also known as clinical informatics. Another specialty is nursing informatics that involves nurses’ interactions with healthcare technology systems. The healthcare profession embraced electronic technology to store and access patient records in coded computer systems.

Degree Choices

An Associate of Health Informatics will teach you the technical aspects required to develop record-keeping systems within different medical settings. Some colleges call their program- Health Information Technology. In both, you can expect concentration courses in medical terminology, anatomy, and physiology and medical office management. The implementation and maintenance of information technology in healthcare may also be covered. Some programs mix theory and practice. This format allows students to apply the background information to real-life simulations.

A Bachelor of Science in Health Informatics combines theories and technology. This combination results in the improvement of health and healthcare knowledge, practice, and outcomes. Students will learn about healthcare quality, database management, project management, leadership, and finance. Undergraduate programs also focus on effective oral and written communication, theoretical understanding of people and institutions, critical thinking, and an ethical framework for decision-making.

Certificates

After earning your undergraduate degree in this field, there are many schools offering certificates in informatics. You may choose an online Clinical Informatics Certificate. One of these consists of seven 3 credit courses, one of which is the practicum, all offered on a quarterly basis. Some of these are Graduate Certificates, which means the  courses can be credited to a master’s degree in Informatics.  The certificate programs provide the knowledge and skills to prepare for positions in an expanding area of healthcare. In addition, they are affordable and require less time to complete than a degree.

Certification

Certification in nursing informatics is an option for RNs. The American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) offers an Informatics Certification Exam to obtain board certification. To sit for this examination, in addition to having an active RN license you need to meet their practice hour requirements. The minimum practice hours in informatics are 1,000 in the last 3 years for RNs. The typical route is the Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). You can also complete a certificate in nursing informatics at the graduate level if you already have a master’s degree in another nursing discipline.

Skills for Success

Obtaining, storing, organizing, and analyzing data describes health informatics. It is about computer programming, data abstraction principles, financial models, and information technology. Your degree curriculum should support these functions, along with the development of problem-solving, interpersonal, and communication skills. These traits should complement your coursework.

What else do you need for success? A Master’s degree or beyond will bring you more money and further advancement. A survey of the Nursing Informatics Workforce in 2014 reported that 43 percent have a Master’s and 60 percent have a post-graduate degree. The attendees at this 2014 conference had an average salary of $100,717.

Employment Prospects

A 2014 Burning-Glass report stated, “The demand for health informatics workers is projected to grow at twice the rate of employment overall, but there is strong evidence that the nation already faces a shortage of qualified workers in this field.” This demand continues for informatics consultants, specialists, nurses, record keepers, directors, and others. Most informatics directors have a master’s degree, yet some that have grown with the field may hold a bachelor’s degree along with many years of experience. While salary ranges will vary geographically, the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) reports the range to be from approximately $80,000 to over $100,000 per year.